Ghost nets remain a persistent danger to marine life in Turkey
Man-made pollution of the seas manifests itself in different forms, and ghost nets are just one of the many contaminants that harm the marine ecosystem.
As their name suggests, ghost nets are nets that have been abandoned at sea after falling into disuse and which, without intervention, remain in the ecosystem for years. When left unattended, the nets continue to trap unconscious sea creatures and can be swept away to different parts of the sea due to changing currents. Volunteers and public bodies continuing their efforts to clean up these nets are currently the only solution to the problem, which also threatens diving tourism, a lucrative sector in Turkey thanks to its access to the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas.
“Their ability to continue to trap any fish after they are dropped can last anywhere from four months to seven years,” says Professor Adnan Ayaz of the Faculty of Marine Sciences at Onsekiz Mart University in Çanakkale, a province of Turkey. western Turkey on the Aegean coast. “The fish trapped there are not collected, so the predators of those fish eat them but in turn they are also trapped. It becomes a cycle. Ghost nets are like black holes for a marine ecosystem,” said Ayaz told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Saturday.
Although exact figures are not available, it is estimated that 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of nets are lost or left behind by fishing boats in total each year. Plastic-derived nets also contribute to plastic pollution at sea. In 2020 alone, authorities removed ghost nets from 10 locations over an area of 10,000 square meters. In 2019, the government required all commercial fishing vessel operators to notify authorities of the type, quantity and contact details of nets lost at sea.
Ayaz says ghost nets make the place they are thrown or stuck completely uninhabitable, effectively killing all sea life there. He added that trawling for lobsters and other shellfish was also a form of “controlled” ghost netting and posed a risk to marine life. “We need awareness (of fishermen) and a ban on nets in risk areas. For example, nets should be banned in rocky underwater areas and fishermen should allow the use of nets only in designated areas,” he warned.
Hamdullah Aras, a diving instructor, is among the volunteers cleaning the seas of ghost nets. Recently, he and his friends pulled around 200 meters of ghost nets from the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Izmir province to the west. “Although we are removing them, fishermen continue to spread the nets in areas where the nets are most likely to get stuck,” he told AA.